Hospital in battle to save jobs

Monday, 22 May, 2006

West Suffolk Hospital is facing a desperate fight to hang on to staff as the financial stranglehold on NHS providers continues to tighten.
The Bury St Edmunds hospital, slashed 260 posts, 50 beds and two theatres last year as it struggled against mounting debts.

Despite this, the hospital made savings of £6 million and improved waiting times for inpatients, day cases, cancer referrals and A&E.

However, the fear is that with West Suffolk facing possible cuts in its funding, more jobs could be sacrificed as bosses battle to reduce a £12 million deficit.

Local MPs Richard Spring and David Ruffley met health bosses recently to discuss the hospital's future.

"It's to the hospital's credit that it managed to improve its performance, while making some very hard decisions during the last year," said Mr Spring.

"However, it had a £6 million shortfall in funding last year and is expecting a similar amount in the coming year, meaning there could be more cutbacks.

"My worry is that if there is another round of job losses, it could have a very demoralising effect on the staff, who are doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances."

As MP for West Suffolk, Mr Spring criticised the way the NHS was funded, claiming it was biased against the county and needed urgent revision.

Mr Ruffley, MP for Bury and Stowmarket, said: "It's going to be a punishing, difficult year for the hospital because there are only so many savings you can make."

Mr Ruffley said he would be pushing for Whitehall officials to write off the hospital's underlying deficit, which has to be paid off by 2008.

Chris Bown, chief executive of the hospital's NHS Trust, added: "We had a good discussion about the challenges we continue to face and I found the meeting very valuable."